It is relatively easy to tell the difference between a bird and a mammal at a glance, but there are some differences between them that you may not know.
Birds differ from mammals because they have feathers, a lighter bone structure, how they feed, and their respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems.
Please read on to learn more about the differences between mammals and birds.
What Are The Differences Between Mammals And Birds?
There are many differences between mammals and birds, including their outer skin coat, bone structure, feeding method, and auditory structure. We will go into the details of all these differences below.
The first difference many people notice between mammals and birds is that birds generally have feathers. Birds have feathers because they need to keep their bodies light and ventilated. Mammals have fur or hair as their outer coat, which they use to keep themselves warm. Mammals are endothermic animals and regulate their temperature.
Birds have to be very light to fly, and their bone structure is one of the reasons they are so soft.
The primary reason for this is that birds have hollow bones. The hollow bones enable them to keep their weight on the lower side, which helps them fly. On the other hand, mammals have denser bones.
Over several centuries of evolution, the bird bones have become hollow to fly to greater heights. If the bones were denser, like mammals, they would not fly due to their heavier weight.
While this difference is not visible by looking at them, it is one of the primary differences between mammals and birds.
Mammals have mammary glands, and that is how they got their name. Mammals use mammary glands to feed milk to their young.
When you look at birds’ feeding methods, you will realize that they provide partially digested or easy-to-digest food to their young.
Unlike mammals, they do not feed milk from their body to their young. Birds do not have mammary glands to produce milk. This is why birds provide easy-to-digest food to their younger ones, which they get external to their bodies.
Another big difference between mammals and birds is how they produce sound. The auditory system between birds and mammals is entirely different.
Mammals use a part known as the larynx. The larynx in mammals is situated near the upper area of the neck. It is responsible for breathing and producing sound in mammals. The larynx consists of vocal folds to vary the pitch and volume.
Birds do not have a larynx but, instead, have a syrinx. The syrinx is the auditory organ that birds use as a voice box. The syrinx does not consist of any vocal folds. The mechanism to produce sound involves the variation of membrane tension to modulate the sound. The absence of vocal folds ensures that the sound produced by birds and mammals is starkly different.
As you can see, how mammals and birds produce sound is entirely different. The variation is based on the modulation technique and the other body parts used.
If you are familiar with our respiratory system, you may know that we use the lungs to inhale and exhale. The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs inside microscopic sacs in the lungs. Lungs are an essential part of the respiratory system of humans and other mammals.
Birds have different respiratory systems. Bird exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air capillaries. The air capillaries are similar to microscopic tubes.
The respiratory system differs in mammals and birds because the exchange process happens in a single cycle in mammals. In birds, however, the exchange process occurs in 2 different bikes. This means oxygen is kept in the body for two complete inhalations and exhalations.
This critical difference in the respiratory system makes mammals and birds quite different.
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The next difference between birds and mammals is much easier to notice when looking at them. Mammals have strong teeth, which help them with the mechanical digestion of food.
Birds do not have teeth but, instead, have a beak. The beak does not contain any teeth. The mechanical digestion of food takes place through gastroliths. Gastroliths are small stones swallowed into the stomach to help grind food particles.
Not only the anatomy of the mouth is different but also the digestion process of mammals and birds.
One of the most fundamental differences between mammals and birds is the difference in their reproduction system.
Mammals directly give birth to their younger ones. Birds, on the other hand, lay eggs. They then warm these eggs and take care of them in their nest until the eggs hatch and the young ones are born.
Sound Processing Capability
Birds have a huge advantage when it comes to auditory capacity. They have the highest resonant frequency per cm square of their body surface. Mammals cannot produce sounds at such a high resonant frequency.
Mammals generally cannot produce sound at higher resonant frequencies than birds.
What Are The Similarities Between Mammals and Birds?
Now that you know the primary differences between mammals and birds, I wanted to share some similarities.
Birds, as well as mammals, maintain constant body temperatures. Both birds and mammals are warm-blooded. Birds or mammals do not make use of external heat to stay warm.
This warm-blooded nature gives rise to another similarity. It means that when mammals’ and birds’ calorific requirement is considered concerning weight, it is pretty similar.
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The warm-blooded nature of mammals and birds ensures that they consume significant food to maintain body temperature. The dietary requirements of both these species are much higher than cold-blooded animals such as reptiles.
Mammals have a four-chambered heart, but you might be surprised that birds also have the same.
Birds are only able to fly by spending a significant amount of energy. Generating such a large amount of energy is only possible with an efficient circulatory system. Birds require a four-chambered heart to circulate enough blood to generate power.
The four-chambered heart of mammals and birds separates the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood and pumps the oxygenated blood to various parts of the body.
While feeding the young is different in mammals and birds, other methods are the same.
Both mammals and birds look after their younger ones. However, the time for which the mammals and birds look after their younger ones vary from one species to another.
In the case of mammals, the female mammal generally looks after the younger one while lactating, while in the case of birds, most species look after their younger ones until they can fly and hunt prey.
There are a few variations in each of these species, but this is a general rule.
Vertebrates are living organisms consisting of a backbone and a skeletal system. They can move around swiftly and efficiently without requiring external support at all points in time.
Birds, as well as mammals, are vertebrates. While birds have hollow bones, their bone structure is much more complex. The anatomy of a bird\ ensures that the bones can easily take their bones’ support while landing and taking off. On the other hand, mammals have dense bones that allow them to walk and run efficiently.
Another similarity between mammals and birds is the composition of their blood. Blood consists of white and red blood cells. In both cases, the red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein used by the body to transport oxygen. In mammals and birds, the blood is red due to the presence of hemoglobin.
Sources and References
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.